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Bridge’s Loss is Oysters’ Gain as New Artificial Reef in Asquith Creek
Arnold, Md. — One icon of the Chesapeake Bay – the oyster – was given an improved chance of survival today thanks to another icon of the region – the Bay Bridge. More than three million baby oysters took up residence in the Severn River on recycled concrete from a re-decking project on the bridge.
“Today marks the fruition of a landmark partnership in sustainable transportation and environmental protection,” said Transportation Secretary and Maryland Transportation Authority Chairman John D. Porcari. “It's quite exciting that in preserving the Bay Bridge, we're able to use the concrete bridge deck to help preserve the health of the magnificent Chesapeake Bay that flows beneath it. The Authority is proud to be a partner in this historic project and supports Governor O'Malley's commitment to oyster recovery and restoring the Bay for future generations.”
The Asquith Creek Reef was made possible by an impressive alliance of public and private groups, with the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation and the Maryland Transportation Authority spearheading funding, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources leading the reef building. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Restore America’s Estuaries, the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, and the Oyster Recovery Partnership also played central roles. Representatives from the groups expressed confidence the alliance could be the start of a new era in oyster restoration in the Bay and a model worthy of future emulation and support.
In a morning ceremony at the reef, members of the alliance threw ceremonial handfuls of Bay Bridge concrete and oysters on top of the three-acre reef, then watched as tons of spat – baby oysters attached to existing oyster shells – were dumped on the recycled concrete foundation. In all, 2,500 cubic yards of concrete were used as a foundation or substrate for the oysters. Traditionally, old oyster shells serve as foundations, but insufficient amounts of shells exist – threatening restoration of the oyster population.
“This project is an example of diverse groups working together on the common goal of habitat restoration to provide enhanced ecological benefits,” said Frank Dawson, assistant secretary for Aquatic Resources at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“In pockets around the Bay oysters are prospering after decades of decline from polluted water, disease, and harvesting. If we can continue to boost the population with projects like this, oysters will help filter that dirty water,” said Kim Coble, Maryland executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Echoing Secretary Porcari’s comments were David Sutherland, chairman of the non-partisan Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation. “We worked hand-in-hand with the bi-partisan Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in 2007 to secure legislative approval of a $500,000 capital appropriation for the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) – a project to create a reef system throughout Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Our intent with support of MARI is consistent with the our support of the Asquith Creek Reef – the Chesapeake Bay is vitally dependent upon a healthy reef system in order to help purify our water through habitat conducive to oyster proliferation. We’re proud to have played a key leadership role in both these Bay-friendly endeavors…and we look forward to doing the same tomorrow with our stakeholder friends, like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.”
Much of the concrete was taken from the westbound re-decking of the Bay Bridge. The concrete was broken apart, thoroughly cleaned and inspected, and then hauled on barges to the reef site. Engineers from the Maryland Geological Survey team did exhaustive underwater testing of the site to ensure the reef allowed a minimum of 10 feet of clearance for boats.
October 23, 2008
Contact: Olivia Campbell
410-260-8016 office I 410-507-7525 cell
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov.